Much like Ron DeSantis prior to the 2024 election, Scott Walker came into the 2016 election as a rising Republican star many thought would be a powerhouse on the campaign trail.
But the former Wisconsin Governor’s campaign only served to turn Republican voters off to the idea that he should ever hold higher office.
And Scott Walker left everyone stunned after admitting that Ron DeSantis is making the same mistake that destroyed his political career.
The same mistake most conservatives make
Back in the early 2010s, then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker became a potential Presidential candidate in the eyes of many due to his success in winning the Governorship in a state that traditionally leans Democrat, and his ability to survive Democrats’ witch hunts and efforts to overthrow the duly elected Governor in a recall effort.
While he certainly never secured any historic, landslide victories on the level of what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pulled off in the traditional swing state in 2022, winning 62 of the state’s 67 counties on his way to a nearly 20-point drubbing, the parallels between the two make sense.
Going into their respective Presidential campaigns, both had a stronger national name ID than most any other Governor and had a tremendous record of success enacting a conservative agenda during their time in office at the state-level.
But Walker’s Presidential aspirations hit a major snag during the early stages of the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary, as his campaign stalled out quickly and his support began to dwindle, much like what is now happening to DeSantis.
And the former Wisconsin Governor has now admitted that he believes Governor DeSantis is making the same mistake that cost him his political career in 2015.
During an interview with CNN just prior to the first Republican Presidential Primary debate, Walker rather candidly admitted that his mistake in the 2016 election was “listening to consultants who told me to run on my record – that’s not enough.”
CNN’s John Berman followed up Walker’s admission by noting the similarities between Walker’s and DeSantis’ respective resumes as Presidential candidates, and he asked the former Governor point blank whether he believed the Florida Governor is now “making some of the mistakes you think you made?”
A failure to come through when it mattered most
For his part, Walker quickly responded that he believes that’s the case, and advised DeSantis that while he has the best legislative record of any candidate for President, he’s not running to be the nation’s Governor.
“I think so, and I think he can correct a fair amount of that tonight,” Walker said prior to the debate. “He’s got a big, bold record and a lot of people look at what happened in Florida, look at his reelection, see a lot of positives there.”
“But a reminder from Governor to Governor, you’re not running for election to be the nation’s Governor,” he added. “You’re running to be President, so you have to escalate things. You have to raise it to a whole new standard. You have to talk about not just the things that you did, but the things that you’re going to do going forward. I think you can have that kind of breakthrough moment, and I think he has to have that breakthrough moment if he’ll continue to be viewed as the most viable alternative to President Trump.”
Walker went on to explain that Governor DeSantis has to recognize that the Republican Presidential Primary is not a head-to-head race, like a General Election, where candidates are basically playing defense the entire time, just trying not to make mistakes, as DeSantis certainly appears to be doing.
“Remember, this is not just a head-to-head,” Walker explained. “Many of us have gone head-to-head with our general election opponents and typically there you’re just trying not to stumble, you have a good debate, you’re solid, you make a connection and you make no mistakes. When it comes to a multi-field debate – you’re competing [for] time with seven other candidates and you can’t afford not to capture people’s attention early on. That means he’s got to be bold. He’s got to be decisive, and probably most importantly, he’s got to have some passion.”
Of course, as most everyone is aware at this point, DeSantis did not take Walker’s advice in the first debate.
While he performed well enough to keep his campaign from completely collapsing, he also didn’t do anything to gain any ground and again appeared too apprehensive to be the bold, courageous leader working-class Americans across the country came to love throughout the COVID hysteria.
At the end of the day, Governor DeSantis was always a 2024 backup option in case Democrats succeeded in taking former President Donald Trump out of the race, and his campaign was always going to be more about setting him up for 2028 than anything else.
But at this point, unless Ron DeSantis follows Scott Walker’s advice, he’s going to fall into the same obscurity the former Wisconsin Governor knows all too well.